Meet Allison, the Newport Beach mom who started her own cooking school and consulting business to help kiddos “eat beyond nuggets”.
Where are you from originally?
I’m from Mission Viejo, and most of my extended family is still in Orange County! Yay for free babysitting!
How long have you lived in Newport Beach? How many kids do you have and what are their ages?
I’ve been in Newport Beach since I met my now-husband, Joe, when we blended our family back in 2016. We have three children between us, but not one together (well, only if you count Captain Baby Pickles, our three-legged rescue wonder pup). Avery is 10, Graham is 8, and Charlotte is 5 going on 15. Please pray for me!
What are your favorite things to do with your kids in general or in town? We love to walk the Back Bay and look for birds and animals, and my oldest tries to keep the younger kids quite so she can take pictures! We don’t always see too many (because…who can keep a 5 year old quite?), but when we do, everyone gets super excited! My husband is a huge bird nerd, and has an app on his phone that we use to identify the birds we see.
Name 3 things in town you can’t live without.
For me, its all about FOOD! Everyday, I wake up thinking about what I eat!
#1 Without question is Tabu Shabu – My husband and my date night spot!
#2 Jan’s Health Bar – I’ve been eating at their original location for 20 years, and love, love, LOVE their soups, salads, wraps, and sandwiches for a quickie “Mom Lunch” on the go!
#3 Haute Cakes – I have a breakfast-loving husband, and the All American Breakfast does NOT disappoint. I am convinced they use Wellshire Farms bacon, and it is sublime!
What’s your favorite restaurant in town for a family date? Why?
For family night, I love any restaurant that will provide my kids with an actual menu beyond nuggets, fries, pizza, and burgers. Not that we don’t seriously LOVE those foods, but I am a big proponent of kids being offered the same foods as adults at mealtime, so if we are at Cucina Enoteca for brunch, I love that my kids have the option of ordering salmon fish sticks with veggies AND fries.
What is your favorite kid-friendly recipe?
Oh, I have sooooo many! I think my latest favorite is a tie between my pistachio crusted chicken tenders with a creamy honey mustard sauce, and lemony “roasted brains” AKA cauliflower. When the cauliflower is roasted, it takes on a surprisingly similar flavor to popcorn! I also love my turkey “sushi” rainbow rolls that have the coolest “veggie sprinkles” that the kiddos can put in their “sushi” for a fun, and whimsical veggie exposure!
What is your local go-to store for children’s clothes? Yourself? Furniture?
I’ve been hitting up Cotton On (over by the Irvine Spectrum) which is an Australian children’s store that has super fun, and versatile everyday clothing options for kids up to 10 years of age. I can’t buy everything at Target, otherwise, my kids will be in the same shirt as four of their friends! For myself, Nordstrom is a go-to staple; mostly because I love their return policy! Furniture, I am a HomeGoods junkie! I mean, who has the patience to worry if an expensive throw pillow gets sticky fingers or boogers smashed into it, when a Home Goods pillow can easily be replaced for under $30 dollars? I am embarrassed to say I have the top 10 stores in Orange County mapped on a spreadsheet, and I know which stores have better pillows or patio furniture! It’s all about the hunt! Three years ago I found three matching poufs for $39.99 each (being sold online for over $100!) after searching all ten stores! When I found the third and final one, I had the sale clerk take my victory picture.
What are your favorite events in Costa Mesa or Newport Beach?
My kids and I had such a blast at Winter Fest this year at the OC Fairgrounds! They get to play in the snow without the long drive to the mountains- MOMWIN! We also love the Earth Day Back Bay clean up in the spring.
Do you have a favorite destination for family trips? Why?
Until my kids were all at least four, we did a majority of our family trips as “stay-cations” to exotic destinations like Sandy Eggo (San Diego) to stay at La Costa with the fantastic water park, or the quaint beach cottages near the ocean front by the Dana Point Pier. For me, I wasn’t about to spring for airfare for three kids to Hawaii, and for them to only remember “the awesome pools”, if anything at all from the trip- LOL. Last year was our first year truly going somewhere far, and hit Los Cabos, and Hawaii… and my 5-year-old still just remembers “the awesome pool”! This year, we are taking the kids with a few other families on a SoCal coast RV road trip up to Big Sur with lots of stops along the way.
Name a favorite book or podcast? What’s it about/brief description?
Well, I don’t read (unless you include Us Weekly), but I do love a good podcast! My Friend Lara Scott co-hosts one called “Searching SoCal” and talks weekly about hidden gems in the SoCal area.
What has been the most difficult age with your children to date? What helped you overcome the challenges at that time?
Well, I went from having one child to three rather quickly when my husband and I blended our families, so I wasn’t there for most of my older two’s toddler years, but my youngest daughter was TERRIBLE at two. I remember calling my husband and telling him I was ready to sell her to the circus! She has definitely been our most “willful and spirited” child, and year two felt like breaking in a wild mustang (but still keeping her spirit and spark alive!). For me, staying consistent with the rules and expectations were huge, and to not threaten a consequence that I couldn’t (or wouldn’t realistically) follow through on. That, and wine. AMEN to wine!
What is one piece of advice you would pass along to other moms? What was the best advice your mom gave you?
It’s a tough pill to swallow, but it’s about being a mother to a boy. When they get married and have kids, realize his significant other has now trumped you! Sorry, Mamas… I have a son, too! “Keep your mouth shut, and calendar and wallets open”! Complain all you want to your husband and girlfriends, but keep it pleasant and easy for your son’s wife/significant other to make plans with you.
What do you most value in your friends?
Honesty, and someone who makes lunch date decisions based on the cocktail menu.
Please tell me I’m not the only mom who has forgotten to pick up their kids from school? Last year, I was sitting at my younger daughter’s swimming lesson, when I saw my other kids’ school calling. At first, I thought “someone must be sick!”. When I answered, the school secretary said she had both my kids up at the front, and my first thought was, “Geez, they BOTH can’t be sick… I wonder if they had an issue at school with another child!” After a long pause, the school secretary said “We were wondering if you had plans for them to be picked up from school today?” OOOooops! I quickly got my younger one out of the pool, dashed to school, and proceeded to take everyone for ice cream to celebrate Mom/Allison’s GIANT mom fail. I actually like letting my kids see that even my husband and I (and every other adult on the planet) still make mistakes. And its, OK!
What was your career before having children? If it’s the same, how do you balance career & motherhood?
I was in sales for 15 years, most recently medical device sales working in the OR’s. I was a divorced mom working full-time when I met my husband, and now that we blended our families, I am a full-time Domestic Engineer (with a side hustle teaching kids to enjoy foods beyond nuggets and fries from my home) and I can honestly say I am WAYYYYY busier now than when it was just me, my career, and my daughter. How crazy is that? Our family “balance” is unique in that, being blended, we share custodial time for our children, so when they are here we try to soak up as much time with them as possible, and push the non-essential stuff to the days where my husband and I are rolling solo.
Tell us a little more about this side hustle!
When my youngest child went into fulltime school, I decided to start a little cooking school to help kids “eat beyond nuggets” as well as a consulting business for parents of picky eaters. You can follow along with our cooking class shenanigans and my Picky to Persuadable Method on IG @LilPinkiesUp or at LilPinkiesUp.com.
Thank you Allison!